This story is by Gabriel Valenzuela and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Camila closed the door quietly. She knew she wasn’t alone but would be soon. Resisting the tears, she started walking around that old room, located on the 3rd floor of her grandma’s house. She decided this was going to be her last time there, so she didn’t want to miss any details on those four walls; the old pictures and that 1929 calendar Rosa never threw away.
Enjoining the smell of her grandma’s room, —that smell of antique furniture and old books— she stared at the first picture.
How many times have I seen this picture? She thought.
She was looking at that picture from her heart, feeling that nostalgic sensation she always felt when inside her grandma’s room. Rosa — her grandmother, who was 21 years old in the picture — was holding her husband’s hand, Gonzalo. He passed away when Camila was only a toddler.
I wish I’d had one opportunity to talk to him. Camila thought, feeling the first tear going down her left cheek.
Rosa was on her bed, looking at her granddaughter. She could barely move and knew her hours were numbered.
“He held you in his arms when you were born, and said you were the most beautiful angel he ever met in his 79 years of life,” Rosa said.
“Grandma, don’t talk, please rest. I’m here with you. I won’t leave.”
Camila felt the need of hugging her beloved grandma, but she didn’t want Rosa to know she was worried. She resisted the temptation and continued with the second picture.
It’s simply beautiful. The picture showed Rosa and her daughter Karla, Camila’s mom. Only then, she was just a little girl.
“You look exactly like your mom, have I told you that before?” Rosa asked her.
“Millions of times, grandma,” Camila answered, still looking at the picture.
“In that picture, we were in Chile. We decided to escape the cold winter of Burlington and—” Before she could finish, Rosa started coughing hard. Camila grabbed a tissue and gave it to her grandma.
“Grandma please, don’t talk, just rest. I’m right here.” Camila grabbed the used tissue back, noticed the blood in it, and threw it on the floor. Another tear started going down her right cheek.
“Don’t worry my love, let me talk to you, it makes me happy.” Rosa grabbed some water before resuming her story.
“As I was saying, we decided to go to South America. Did you know that when here it is wintertime, there it is summertime?”
“Really?” Camila asked, staring at the black-and-white picture again. “I didn’t know. So, they enjoy Christmas in the summertime?”
“They do indeed darling” Rosa tried to sit on her bed but couldn’t. “We visited Chile, Peru, and Argentina that year. It was one of the best summers of my life.”
Suddenly, those last words from her grandma sounded like an echo in Camila’s head, and as much as she tried to see the picture again, it somehow disappeared from the wall.
“NOOOO!” Camila yielded and covered her face with both hands praying to see the picture again. When she opened her eyes again, everything was back to normal, and after grabbing a tissue to dry her tears, she moved to the next wall.
She knew this next picture so well; it was one of the reasons she loved to enter her grandma’s room. She would always stare at it for at least ten minutes — those little girls in the park having fun, the smile in their faces. As Camila was looking at that picture, she started doing something she never did before; she imagined herself playing with those girls.
I wish I’d been born at that time. Camila thought and sighed.
“Your mom and your aunt Victoria were always happy together in their childhood,” Rosa said while trying to sit on her bed again; this time, she could move her body a little bit up.
“They still are,” Camila said, trying to hide her silent crying. “All thanks to you grandma.”
Camila loved her grandma from the bottom of her heart. Since she was a little girl, she always enjoyed every minute spent with her, in her room, listening to her stories.
“My little Camila, thank you for being here now, it is so wonderful to see you in my last moments of this long 88-year journey,” Rosa said, with a smile in her face, looking at Camila while she was staring at another picture.
Again, those last words stayed in Camila’s head for a few seconds, echoing. She decided to ignore it and moved to the next picture.
There she was, 1-year-old Camila, in her grandma’s arms. Rosa looked so happy in that picture; Camila smiled and decided she was going to take all these pictures with her so that she can be forever with her grandma.
“We were celebrating your first birthday. We had so much fun that day,” Rosa almost whispered, laying down in her bed again. “Where is your mom? I need to see her now.”
Camila looked at her with tearful eyes, sat down on her grandma’s bed, and hold her right hand.
“She is on her way grandma, she’ll be here soon,” Camila said, trying hard not to cry.
“Oh, I love you, my dear,” Rosa said.
Sitting there holding her grandma’s hand, and with an echo inside her head — Oh, I love you, my dear— repeating endlessly, Camila looked up and saw the last picture. This one was the biggest of the room; a picture of the three of them, back when her mom was a child. In the photo, Rosa was next to her love Gonzalo, and he was holding their daughter Karla in his arms.
Every time Camila looks at this picture from her grandma’s bed, she accepts the truth and comes back to reality. She wakes up. She prays.
This picture is so beautiful. My family is what it is thanks to you, grandma. Thank you for your love and the moments you spent with me, thank you for letting me live this day as it was today. Thank you for giving me the best of you. I carry your blood as the most precious gift one could ever be given. The woman I am right now is the reflection of your love, patience, and kindness. We’ll see each other again one day, and we’ll talk again, just as we did that day when, as a little girl, I came to say goodbye.
The door opens. It’s 3:05 am, Camila knows her mom is there.
Karla looks at her with tears in her eyes; she knows Camila’s dream is over. As usual, an unused tissue is on the floor, next to an old bed.
“Mom, it happened again, I’m sorry,” Camila says, and hugging her mom, both start crying.
“Don’t worry my love, she’s in our hearts. Tomorrow we’ll go put some flowers for her, okay?”
While hugging her daughter, Karla starts looking at those empty walls, wondering how Camila can still see those pictures — taken away from this room years ago— on the same day every year.
The 1929 calendar is still hanging there though, and in an unconscious movement, Karla attempted to grab it, with the intention to take it away, but then a thought stopped her.
Maybe this calendar is somehow giving my daughter the chance to live her last day with my mom. A day she will live forever.
“Let’s go. You will see her again next year.” Karla said, leaving the old calendar hanging on the wall.
“I love you, mom,” Camila says.
“Oh, I love you, my dear.” This time, this phrase was clear for Camila, no echoes at all.